San Francisco Free Press - Caen - November 4, 1994

City Without Pity -- Or Papers

Mr. San Francisco on picket lines and onlines

By Herb Caen
Special to The Free Press

SAN FRANICSCO, Nov. 4, 1994 --Is this good news or bad? I mean Mayor Frank Jordan throwing himself into the newspaper strike as a mediator. Given his Matrix program, I figure his first concession to the employers will be to arrest all the pickets for loitering on the public sidewalks . . . The mayor, of course, is flushed with victory (his) after landing the 1999 Super Bowl for S.F. by promising $26 million (ours) worth of improvements on 34-year-old Candlestick Park. By my count, that makes about $75 million thrown to the wind -- in the words of then Mayor Joe Alioto -- to "perpetuate a mediocrity," a level to which the old lopsided doughnut has never quite risen.

City without pity -- or daily newspapers. The news on radio and TV isn't the same. You can't reread it once, to try to get the meaning, or twice, to look for typos, mistakes and/or illiteracies. In short, it simply isn't as much fun.

However, one convention is being observed. The unions "demand" and the owners "offer." Maybe that's part of the Taft-Hartley law we should have paid more attention to a long time ago . . . The city hasn't had time yet to really miss the dailies, but it'll happen any non-edition. It's still a shock to open the front door in the morning and find nothing there, not even a foundling. What's also missing is the buzz that was part of so many people's daily lives, the "Say, did you read where . . .?"

In this Balkanized city, the dailies gave a lot of people something in common, if only complaints. "Imagine dropping The Fusco Brothers? Loved 'em." "Hated 'em." "Can't stand that Montana-lovin' Dickey ... ugggh." "Didja read the restaurant review? Ye gods, three stars for that crummy joint?" As for Mick LaSalle's praise for that lousy movie -- well! Personally, I miss the Macy's ad.

As one of my admirers once said, "Caen, the only reason you have a column is that Macy's couldn't afford a full-page ad." What I miss in the six-column ad is all those toothsome girl/women modeling pantyhose and other mentionables, thereby diverting attention from the two columns of caenanities to the left.

However, as the strike progresses, if that is the proper verb, I think a lot of San Franciscans, especially old-timers, will miss my stuff. Who else is going to tell them how wonderful they are, how lucky they are to live here, and how great The City is? Our neurotic residents need this kind of fix -- daily, if possible. Such as this one, from my old friend George E. Reed. who returned after a long stay in Phoenix to report: "There really is no place like San Francisco, and if there were, it wouldn't be Phoenix."

By the way, I also miss Pat Stegers' column. Where else can one read about all the faaabulous parties that one wasn't invited to? Talk about ruining the whole day.

Copyright 1994 The Free Press

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